A recent study conducted by the Council of the Great City Schools, based in Washington and representing the nation’s largest urban school districts, gauges the scope of tests being administered to students. The findings are that the tests are, according to Denisa Superville from Education Week: redundant, misaligned with college- and career-ready standards, and not informative related to student mastery of specific content.
The study examined several factors and best-practices including the types of tests, how often they were given, and how the data and scores are used. The major findings are as follows:
- Students in the 66 districts took 401 unique tests last year.
- There is no correlation between time spent testing and improved math and reading scores.
- Students in the 66 systems sat for tests more than 6,570 times last year.
- While testing for pre-K pupils was less common, even they were not exempt.
- Thirty-nine percent of districts waited two to four months to receive state test results.
- Tests were used for purposes for which they were not designed, such as evaluating school staff.
In addition to these findings, the Council also reports that the testing time and prep took away from overall instructional time, and scores were taking longer to be processed and results reported, so that they were not useful for instructional improvement either. The Council acknowledged that the national discussion around testing was not always grounded in good evidence. There has been much finger-pointing regarding who is responsible for the test-heavy regimes in place in all schools, but the council’s report finds that everyone—including classroom teachers, principals, districts, states, the federal government, and testing companies—bears some responsibility.
In response to this, the Obama administration has released principles to help states and school districts dial back on assessments, and accepts some of the responsibility. The U.S. Secretary and Deputy Secretary also have participated in a panel discussion on this topic of how to improve assessments in schools.
The next steps after this study revolve around how to revamp tests that are developed to assess the Common Core Standards. According to Chris Minnich, executive director of the CCSSO (key player in Common Core), “The organization will use the new data to inform its efforts around improving the quality of assessments and reducing redundancies.”